From Ground Zero to the Lowcountry, a local teacher shares her 9/11 story

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – This Friday, we remember the nearly 3,000 lives lost 19 years on September 11, 2001. Each survivor of 9/11 remembers exactly where they were the moment they heard about what happened to our country.

For one Lowcountry teacher from James Island Charter High School, the impacts are far reaching; a thread stringing together, both painfully and fatefully, the last 19 years of her life. September 11th, the thread that’s strung together the life of a Lowcountry teacher for 19 years.

Katlin Montella says, she’s never been able to escape the date, and the memories that come with it:

“In life, with one moment, can change everything.”

Katlin Montella

That moment was 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, as Katlin Montella, sat in her sixth grade art class on Long Island.

“I looked around and I was scared because my dad, I thought he was there.”

Katlin Montella

Her father, Anthony, was a New York Firefighter who was supposed to be working in Midtown Manhattan. She feared he would be sent to the Twin Towers, now under attack. A place that held a special place in the family’s hearts, as Katlin’s parents met there.

Katlin was distraught, frantically trying to reach him by phone:

“My dad answered, and that’s when I knew he was okay.”

Katlin Montella

Her father was on the first day of what was supposed to be a vacation. Those plans quickly crumbled, as his entire firehouse perished responding to the attack. It was now Katlin’s father who was distraught:

“You see your dad coming home, and the way that he had to deal with survivor’s guilt and feeling like he is not going to see these people ever again, that he basically lived with.”

Katlin Montella

The months after were full of pain and recovery, help and relief coming from all over the country, including the opportunity to take a trip to Myrtle Beach:

“They gave us a lot of opportunity to heal and get out of New York.”

Katlin Montella

A gift Katlin’s family remembered when it came time to choose a college:

“My Dad was like why don’t you look at South Carolina, and we love it down there, they did so much for us, so why don’t we kind of give back to them.”

Katlin Montella

After four years as a Gamecock, she walked away with a passion for teaching, and a love for South Carolina that eventually brought her to the Lowcountry.

Years later, another surprise, bringing the ominous date into her life once again.

“My [daughter’s] due date was September 11th. And then I was like, you better not!”

Katlin Montella

Katlin says, she hoped for her daughter, Ava, not to be born on the day, that’s always haunter her, and then a change of heart:

“Maybe it will make something better, out of this terrible day.”

Katlin Montella

Three generations of Montellas, unexpectedly linked to the day, that cost the country so much. Now, a new mission for Katlin:

“These kids would want to be in my classroom, because it made them feel safe and comfortable.”

Katlin Montella


This morning, in front of a classroom full of art students, not much older than she was the day her life changed forever, Katlin told her students about the journey that started in an art class, 19 years ago today:

“I would not be in South Carolina, I would not be a teacher, I would not have my daughter, like you know maybe in other ways, but it would not be how it is in my life right now.”

Katlin Montella

Katlin says she and her father are still very close, this morning she texted him “I love you,” on a day that’s still very emotional for him.

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